Alright - so first of all, I’m also very bad at this. I’m writing this article down as much for you as for myself. When meeting people, I forget their names instantly. My thoughts already jumbled on what next to ask. Or thinking about the next person in line to introduce myself to. Then - flash - I forgot their name already.
Sometimes while my fingers still linger in a handshake it hits me. I didn’t even remotely hear or process their name. Let alone remember it. That’s why I’ve developed an arsenal of sneaky tactics to find out someone’s name after introductions. Trying to catch if someone texts them. Or pay extra attention when someone new enters the conversation.
Fessing up, feeling a bit ashamed and asking their name again after 10 minutes would be a better tactic. But,...it’s usually after a few weeks though. When I really need to use their name. Making it extra awkward. Sometimes making me look like a dick.
Being a bit more in the moment for 5 seconds would fix this problem and cost a whole less of effort! Yet, you and I are not weird or anything for not remembering. We are good as we are! Forgeting names happens to a lot of people.
Humans forget. It’s just a random name at first. You still need to get to know someone to associate all memories and experience with the person and name.
Apparently someone’s name is the “sweetest and most important sound”. Not sure if that’s true - you also have chocolate chip cooky, sexy time and Star Wars premier. But it sure is true your name means a lot to you.
So names! Useful. Remember them. You and I, we can’t seem to. I’ve researched some ways that can help and trying them out myself as well. So sure I listed 9 tactics here to remember people’s names. But it is not like you can use implement them all at once. Try to use 3 at first. See what works for you to remember people’s names and stick to those.
Let’s both commit to getting this!
From now on we will use 3 tactics listed below, see what works, and iterate from there to find out how we can remember more names!
1. Pay more attention
First of all you need to be focused. Be in the moment. Don’t let your chatty anxious voice get the better of you. No time for stories in your head. Or phrasing your next question already. You are here to learn a name. So listen attentively when you introduce yourself. Get to hear the password to someone’e heart.
2. Be motivated and choose to be interested
You have to be invested in wanting to know them. But what is your motivation? Because it is polite to do? Someone might be an interesting person to talk to. (You don’t know yet.) Best reason is if he/she looks cute ofcourse!
Find what possibility lies there! Let it motivate you to remember their name.
Besides choose to be interested in them. If you don’t invest in conversation it’s going to be bland for sure. By accepting the potential of meeting someone great, and being interested, helps you to remember their names.
Showing interest is the key to great ongoing conversations anyway. (As I’ve iterated a thousand times.) Your first real test of interest is in remembering their name. You choose to care about this.
3. Repeat their name
Alright - now come the tricks. Repeat someone’s name a few (2-3) times in the conversation. Apparently you remember things better if you reproduce information to yourself. (Why do you think I write all these lessons down 😅?)
So for instance - you meet me and I introduce myself.
- “Hi I’m Timon and you are?”
- “Nice meeting you Timon, I’m Amrit”
As I start talking you push in the name two more times
- “You just mentioned hiking, what is one of your favorite trails Timon?”
Also try repeating someone’s name when saying goodbye. (You can overdo this! Don’t force someone’s name in the conversation every sentence! Just a few times.)
4. "How do you spell that?"
This works a bit better ofcourse with harder names. Asking to spell “Fred” is not that interesting. But some people have harder names. If you meet: "Mrinalini" you can freely ask the spelling. Besides there is always their last name. So ask people to spell it out.
In this way the name is repeated and dissected. Making it much easier to remember. If the name has an unique spelling it is even easier to remember!
When it is a unknown name to you - just also ask how to pronounce it properly. There, you heard the name 3 times already to store on your harddisk.
5. Break down difficult names with mnemonic devices
Break down in what? “A mnemonic device, or memory device , is any learning technique that aids information retention or retrieval (remembering) in the human memory.” according to wikipdia at least.
Simply put, a mental hook for your mind to remember. A little trick.
Let’s say you meet “Frederick Vanderbelt” - You make a weird one sentence story about it: “So it’s Fred and Rick held together with a Belt.” This visual story helps you remember. “Doy! Vanderbelt!, Frederick!” Because this silly sentence becomes so much more than 2 words to remember.
6. Make (fun) associations
Another form of memory device is making association. You associate someone’e name with what makes you think about them. It can also be the feeling they gave you, or even the location you met them.
- Brenda - "Grumpy brenda, the woman who is always mad at something."
- Marshall - "Ooow townhall Marshall - the guy I met at townhall."
Use your fantasy and references, it is for remembering only. I have met a friend of a friend. Normally I would forget his name. But not this time. His name is Ben. I always remember it by associating it with this "J-Lo & Ben" Southpark episode.
7. Identify with a specific feature
And a third memore tool. Find something that is idiosyncratic or unique about someone to remember their names. Couple it with their names and you have a great ad hoc mnemonic device. Think about:
- Wide pants Wilbert
- Suitup Larry
- All buns Bonny
- 80s curls Jessica
- Green eyes Kennedy
- Unibrow Bert
8. Meeting more people? Play the travel game.
When meeting a group of people you can try to play the travel game in your head. In the game you add everybody on an imaginary list for your next trip.
So - "I’m going on a trip and bring Rob." Then you meet Aarti. "I’m going on a trip and bring Rob and Aarti." Then you meet Yassar. "I’m going on a trip and bring Rob, Aartie and Yassar." Etc. Etc.
You can even make it into a song in your head. That helps! (I’m not going to sings my group association song to you.)
9. Ask their name again if you forget
Finally, what we probably still have to do a few more times before gettting it. Re-asking their name.
Don’t shame yourself for asking again 15 minutes, an hour, or a week later. A lot of times you find out they forgot your name as well! It’s okay, it’s normal, it happens. Own up to it - and you’ll be free to try to remember again!